Kelby Tomlinson was eating breakfast in the Giants’ clubhouse about 10:30 Wednesday morning when manager Bruce Bochy told him he’d be a late addition to the starting lineup. With Denard Span needing a day off, the Giants needed Tomlinson to play left field for the second time in his professional career.
Such is life for a major-league utility player. Two hours later, Tomlinson grabbed his outfielder’s glove – one of three he carries, along with one for the middle infield and another for third base – ran to left field and made several important contributions in the Giants’ 4-3, 10-inning win over the San Diego Padres.
The Giants, who have won 13 of their past 14 games to surge into the National League West lead, are 9-0 against the Padres this season. Dating to July, San Francisco has beaten San Diego in 15 of the past 17 meetings.
Tomlinson made his first start in left Saturday and said it was the first time he had played the position since middle school. On Wednesday, he threw out a runner at home in the first inning and made several catches in the afternoon glare at AT&T Park. He also drove in a run while recording a single and double to raise his average to .344.
“I thought Kelby played his rear end off,” Giants starter Jake Peavy said. “Kelby, when he gets in there, just seems to find his way into the action.”
9-0 Giants’ record against the Padres this season
Mainly a shortstop in the minors, Tomlinson has a strong arm but said the last time he’d used it to throw from left field to home was while “messing around” in high school. That is, until he charged Melvin Upton Jr.’s two-out single in the first and fired a strike to catcher Trevor Brown, who tagged out Yangervis Solarte trying to score from second.
“Actually I did (surprise myself),” Tomlinson said. “I came up trying to make a good, strong throw and didn’t really expect to make that good of a throw. But fortunately for us, it went right there to him.”
In the sixth, Tomlinson made another nice play, a sliding catch of Matt Kemp’s sinking liner to end the inning. Illustrating his newness to the outfield – which the Giants first asked him to play during the Arizona Fall League last year – Tomlinson probably only needed to slide because of a late break on the ball but secured the catch.
“He’s a good athlete,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “Put him anywhere on the field and he’ll be all right. He doesn’t get the best reads on the ball I think right away, but he’s athletic enough and fast enough that he’s able to make up for it.”
With Angel Pagan on the disabled list because of a hamstring strain and Hunter Pence resting a hamstring injury Wednesday, Bochy said before the game he had no reservations about playing Tomlinson in left and the Giants could use that spot to get Tomlinson into more games.
I thought Kelby played his rear end off. Kelby, when he gets in there, just seems to find his way into the action.
Giants starter Jake Peavy, on Kelby Tomlinson
Bochy has praised Tomlinson’s handling of the utility role, something he acknowledges can be difficult for younger players who are used to playing every day. Tomlinson said he’s taken advice from backup outfielder Gregor Blanco on how to stay sharp between games and keeps a “short and sweet” routine in the batting cage to maintain a swing that is naturally concise.
On Wednesday, he was one of several key contributors as the Giants completed a three-game sweep of the Padres. Crawford drove in the winning run with a two-out hit to the center-field wall off reliever Brad Hand in the 10th. That came after Giants reliever George Kontos entered a first-and-third, one-out jam in the top of the 10th and stranded both runners to preserve a 3-3 tie.
Peavy, owner of an 8.21 ERA in his first nine outings, allowed one run and pitched into the seventh for just the second time this year. Bochy said Peavy had a better pitch selection than in his last start, when he gave up five runs in the second inning to the Chicago Cubs, and looked “determined” on the mound Wednesday.
“It’s fun talking after a win,” Peavy said. “I haven’t done that for a while.”
The Giants did get a scare in the eighth when Brandon Belt suffered what Bochy called a “mild” ankle sprain while sliding awkwardly into second base.
“He might need a couple days,” Bochy said. “We’re hoping for good news with him.”